Running is like making music to me. Bear with me, if you were to classify two approaches perhaps you’d classify one runner as a composer. Swirling creativity, themes, scope and the overall sense of a piece. Inspiration strikes, and strikes hard… and I’m an instrumentalist. I can woodshed. I like minutiae, I like structure and objective progress. It makes me happy to repeat and repeat and repeat a task, a movement, focusing on the act itself, looking to make myself as efficient and elegant as possible. I’m also very competitive. I like racing.
Running has become authentically and integrally woven into the fabric of my life. I’m happiest now that this is the case, and not the other way around. My life is busy at the moment. No more busy than anyone else’s (as busy is relative) but I have to allocate certain times to devote to running that enable and enhance my presence with my family. I’ve learnt to play a long game, but right now, I’m needed home. When I run, I think about running. I become lost in the task, and feel calmer and more engaged afterwards.I see progress and I track momentum. This is why I train. As an enthusiast, I’d like to share with you an insight into my training over the past 12 months. I’m not suggesting that you should do what I do, however it’s worked for me.
Seek guidance and knowledge
I have always considered myself a student of running. Initially self taught, however over the last twelve months I have trained with a coach. I love it. I find the structure, knowledge and support that a coach gives me is invaluable. The relationship I have with my coach is one of trust, respect and accountability. We both have skin in the game if we want to make the relationship work. Applying yourself to a coaching relationship gains you knowledge and builds habits which bed in over time. In regards to competition, being able to engage regarding strategy with an expert has been invaluable. In terms of bang for buck time wise it’s been greatly beneficial. A coaching relationship is a financial outlay. If this is an expense you cannot justify or you do not feel that you need a coach, I would advocate for some form of engagement in increasing your knowledge, be it a book about running, or an online training programme. In terms of growth and development, attending a running workshop was monumental for me.
There Is No Single Right Answer
This is stolen directly from James Kuegler. But it’s a truism. Running won’t necessarily bring you good health by itself. I mean, you’ll feel BETTER but it’s not a cure all. Attending to other areas of my life in congruence with running was a key for me. Namely, sleep (a challenge) diet and periods of rest. Motility and strength exercises have also been extremely useful in aiding my running.
I am a runner. Not a trail runner. Not a road runner. I am a runner. I love running on trails. I love running on roads. I prefer races up to marathon length. But will happily race shorter (or longer). It’s been somewhat freeing shedding the tribal affiliation. The best runners I know categorise themselves simply. I don’t think we can consider the effect that marketing has in us placing ourselves into boxes. Don’t drink the Tailwind.
Stop being grandiose
There is no doubt that a vista or a sunset or sunrise can be inspiring and it’s always nice to run somewhere else, but…Just run. My sense of adventure is the same if I’m running Kepler or heading out on the road for an arbitrary length of time. Running is a challenge, no matter what. Don’t get suckered into the fact that you aren’t achieving or being adventurous if you are not bagging peaks or whatever. Every run can be an adventure if you treat it as such.
On my worst days, I think that I am fortunate to have the ability (physically, psychologically and socio-economically) to move. Rejoice at that. It could be worse.
Consistency, Isolation & Connectivity
If I don’t feel like running and it is on my training plan then I run. Sometimes I allow myself the luxury of turning back after 10 minutes if I’m still not into it. I have yet to turn back. By nature of where I live, what I do, and who I am I run by myself 90 percent of the time. I have no doubt that this has worked to benefit my training. The locus of control is internal. I’m not letting anyone down if I don’t show, it’s all on me. So I could not go if I want..but I choose to. Conversely, running with people, when I get the chance, is something that I will never pass up. The sense of connection with others is important and highlights to me the shared joy of running.
Run with people who push you
As I type this, I’m arranging to go out and run a 21km course with my friend Nick. He’s going to murder me, even at his “Matthew Pace”. I’m so excited by the challenge. I’m also continuously curious to observe people who display a preternatural talent for running. Run with people who inspire when you can. And remember, everyone is that person to someone. Be cool if you are running with those whom you push.
There you have it. If you want more data regarding weekly KM’s, splits etc then email me or read about it in my regular Kiwi Trail Runner Magazine article, I’m super into all that stuff and could talk the legs off an iron stove about it. However, all that stuff has been secondary to the things that I’ve listed above in helping to progress my running. I draw my motivation from internal factors and fostering that has been the thing that has provided the most utility this year. The confidence that consistent running has given me has in turn allowed me to shrug off self imposed definitions of what category of runner I am or where I fit in the grand scheme of things. I’m hopeful this approach will serve me for a long and happy life that has running woven tightly into the fabric. I’m excited to find out how it goes.